Alibi V.27 No.25 • June 21-27, 2018 

Restaurant Review

Live Flame and a Long Name

Devon’s Pop Smoke is a great night out

Just off I-25 in a commercial part of town I almost never have a reason to go to lies Devon’s Pop Smoke Wood Fired Grill, a gastropub with a mouthful of a name that I can only remember if I say the whole thing really quickly. Despite its location in what I think of as no man’s land, Devon’s has earned a 4.5 star rating on Yelp in its nearly seven months of existence, which means, of course, that I had to go see what all the fuss was about.

The back bar and grill kitchen at Devon's
The back bar and grill kitchen at Devon's
Eric Williams Photography

I recently visited Devon’s with my friend Sara early on a Saturday night so we could catch an evening Isotopes game afterward. Though the place was nearly empty when we first walked in, this changed pretty quickly throughout our dinner—the bar seating in front and the dining room both began to fill up shortly after 6pm. The large front patio was empty as this happened to be one of the two rainy days we’ve had this summer, but in more clement weather I could see it being an ideal spot for happy hour or for dining with your dogs. There’s plenty of seating, a central table with a live fire heater for chilly nights and live music on weekends.

The space in Devon’s is clearly designed to get packed: In addition to the patio out front, the bar area and the dining room, there’s a loft above the restrooms with overflow seating for the drinking crowd. There are two TVs in the front bar that are mercifully invisible from the dining room, so that only those who were really concerned were watching whatever World Cup game was on. The high ceilings manage to make the space feel comfortable, and the dark acoustic panels lining it ensure that it doesn’t get overly loud and echoey inside. The decor is otherwise kind of what you’d expect from a gastropub: dark wood, Edison bulbs and lots of untreated steel.

The sublime steak frites with bone marrow butter
The sublime steak frites with bone marrow butter
Eric Williams Photography

As the name indicates, Devon’s capitalizes on the still-increasing popularity of live fire cooking. This means that their central menu is very grill-centric—think steaks, skewers and sausage. The rest of the menu, which seems to change fairly regularly, goes beyond these most obvious of dishes, though. The one that really surprised me was the grilled halloumi—a cheese from Cyprus traditionally made from a mixture of sheep’s and goat’s milk—served on a bed a forbidden rice with peppadew relish and English peas. I didn’t even know what halloumi was when I came in, but thankfully our waiter was more than happy to explain it to me. He proceeded to be exceptionally helpful and friendly all evening, checking on us often to refill water and making us feel like the most important table in the room.

As interested as I was in this halloumi situation, I instead ordered the pork bao buns (3 for $10) as an appetizer and the local greens salad ($11), while Sara got the steak frites ($23). Our waiter recommended the Saint Michelle rosé to me ($9 glass), which was an excellent panacea on such a humid evening. I was interested in the Denver-made Rocky Mountain Sodas they served ($4 each) instead of the typical Coke selection, and will have to try one of them on my next visit.

Sitting in the dining room, we were able to see into the exposed kitchen that showcased two wood-fired grills, both of which had crank-operated grill surfaces that could be raised or lowered as a means of temperature control. It was entertaining to watch the grills go up and down all night.

The pork bao buns are made with pork belly from pigs raised in Chilili, N.M, and butchered in-house. This fatty cut of meat was topped with kimchi and a gochujang aioli, all wrapped up in rice flour buns. The pork belly was pleasantly smoky and rich, although Sara and I agreed that some more kimchi or something on the spicy side would have made them a little more memorable.

I was impressed with the variety of greens served up in the salad—besides some different kinds of lettuces, there was arugula, rocket and baby chard, along with some greens I couldn’t even name. On top there was bee pollen, pepitas and nopales, reminding me that I was eating a salad in New Mexico and certainly not anywhere else. The dressing was a light and sweet vinaigrette, a minimalist touch on a dish that would have suffered from anything heavier.

The steak was the crowning achievement. The cut was beautifully seasoned with wood smoke and Devon’s sweet and tomatoey steak sauce, and was cooked to a lovely pink medium, as Sara had asked for. We were both a little disappointed that the fries that came with the steak were clearly from a freezer—some steak fries would have been ideal—but we were too busy enjoying the rest of the meal to be too upset about it. The other accompaniments were a handful of fresh rocket greens and some herbed bone marrow butter that was a sublime addition to each bite. “Isn’t that steak so good?” our waiter asked when he checked on us—we both nodded in silent appreciation, busily chewing.

We left Devon’s both agreeing that we wanted to come back soon, very interested in the brunch menu and in trying happy hour on the patio. What I can say with confidence is that, if you’re after a relaxed dinner out with a pleasant atmosphere and wood smoke as primary seasoning, Devon’s has got your number.

Devon’s Pop Smoke Wood Fired Grill

6001 Osuna Rd. NE, Ste. D
508-2829
devonsabq.business.site
Hours: Mon-Thu 11am-9pm, Fri-Sat 11am-11pm, Sun 10:30am-8pm

Vibe: Gastropub chic—a nice dinner spot, but no need to wear a suit
Alibi Recommends: Steak frites, local greens salad and whatever wine the waiter recommends